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Old 08-05-2010, 09:44 AM
 
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The lightning north of Pueblo these past couple of nights has been amazing. Sure is nice not to be watering the grass everyday! RP
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Old 08-05-2010, 09:47 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegaspilgrim View Post
So how far "east" does this "southwest monsoon" system go?
Generally, not that far east of the Front Range.

That said, the eastern part of the Great Plains (east of the 100th Meridian) has a more evenly distributed precipitation pattern, with August only somewhat drier than June in many locales. The overall reliability and availability of Gulf moisture sees to that.

One can see the summer precipitation pattern pretty clearly if one adds up the average monthly precipitation for June, July, and August. Most areas of northwestern Colorado get less than 5" for summer, may less than 4". That drops to only around 2.5" in the west central valleys of Colorado, where the surrounding mountains strip most of the monsoonal moisture before it can reach the valleys. Lower areas of southwestern Colorado can get near 5" of summer precipitation, with mountain areas getting near 7". East of the Continental Divide, most lower elevation areas from Denver north generally get 5" or less or summer precipitation, those totals increasing to around 7" or more in the far eastern Plains of northeastern Colorado from around Sterling east. From about Castle Rock south, the areas adjacent to the Front Range get 6"-7.5" inches of rain in the summer--one of the wetter areas in summer in Colorado. This includes Colorado Springs. As one moves farther south, those totals rapidly drop to around 4" at Pueblo, increasing again as one gets around Trinidad. Foothill and mountain areas east of the Front Range summits and Sangre de Cristos in southern Colorado rank as about the wettest area of Colorado in summer, getting from 6.5"-9.5" of summer rain. The southeastern portion of Colorado's Eastern Plains is considerably drier than the northeast portion, generally getting less than 5" of summer rain until one gets far east in the state. Once one moves east, summer precipitation begins to increase, reaching the 9.5"-11.5" level of summer precipitation once one gets east of the 100th Meridian in Kansas. The 100th Meridian generally is thought of to demarcate the arid West from the non-arid East. It is generally considered the point at which, when one crosses it going west, the evapotranspiration of moisture from the soil exceeds summer precipitation.

Your statement that winter is dry in "most of Colorado" really only holds true east of the Continental Divide. The early part of winter--December and January--is generally fairly dry statewide, but later winter--from February to April--are the big moisture months for most of Colorado west of the Continental Divide.
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Old 08-05-2010, 09:57 AM
 
Location: NW. MO.
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I spent a couple years in Aurora and I absolutely loved the weather in Colorado!
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Old 08-05-2010, 11:17 AM
 
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Default The real reason for the rain...

My in-laws were visiting from Pittsburgh. Over the years, wherever we have lived, whenever they come, they bring Pittsburgh's black cloud with them and it rains. They left this morning, which is why we have crystal clear, blue skies now.
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Old 08-05-2010, 11:23 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
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Eastern NM.
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Old 08-05-2010, 12:07 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
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Even had some rain in Grand Junction. Yesterday evening around 6PM the temp was a very pleasant 66 degrees!

jazzlover wrote:
This annual phenomenon, which is only common in the Rockies in its southern reaches,....
Apparently, the monsoons this year really are stronger than normal. A friend of mine ( a 60 yr CO native! ) has a timeshare in northern Colorado near the Wyoming state line. He invited my wife and I, and few other friends to join him on vacation there. I just returned form 5 days at the Ginger Quill ranch just north of Walden - CO. It rained almost everyday while I was there. Shortly after we arrived, I saw the temperature drop from 73 to 66 in a matter of a minute or two when a dark black cloud, carrying wind and rain rolled in. There was sufficient rain to add a muddy tint to the North Platte river that flows thru the property. The hills in the background were far greener than they appear in this picture of the entrance to the Ginger Quill ranch. The 9 people in our group stayed in the Big House shown in this picture. I was told that it was built back in the 30's. We hiked into another part of the property to visit the original log cabin which had deteriorated into a state of dis-repair. If anyone has a friend who invites you to join them on a vacation to Ginger Quill ranch be sure to take them up on their offer. You will not regret the experience!

Last edited by CosmicWizard; 08-05-2010 at 12:21 PM..
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Old 08-05-2010, 01:40 PM
 
Location: Fort Collins, USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegaspilgrim View Post
When you look at the climate statistics for Denver and much of Colorado, the weather patterns are completely different from the true southwest. Here, winter is the driest time of the year (in terms of precipitation total, not inches of snow), and late spring-summer is the wettest, with May having the highest average precipitation of any single month. This is a weather pattern which appears to be identical to the Midwest (wet summers, dry winters) and perhaps the whole country east of the Rocky Mountains, just less precipitation overall.
I've heard some meteorologists say that the Denver area actually does have a pre-monsoon dry period but statistically its only 2 weeks from late June to early July. My own view is that a two week period is too short to identify as an annual "period". We can get substantial cold fronts all summer here (with lots of rain while the front passes through) and the monsoon can be early, thereby totally eliminating this dry period. I'd personally prefer a weather pattern similar to the southwest where the monsoon is much better defined (as is the dry pre-monsoon period). Here it can all blend together into a relatively wet spring-summer season. Plus daily highs that occasionally don't climb much above 70 degrees in mid-summer are irritating (those days remind me of my "summers" in Seattle).
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Old 08-05-2010, 02:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
As I type, I'm enjoying the sights, smells, and sounds of a good ol' thunderstorm overhead. Bands of heavy rain pouring down, frequent licks of lightning close by, deep echoing thunder--even the smell of ozone in the air from those close lightning bolts. Unlike many, I find the thunderstorm one of God's wonderful creations--one of nature's most magnificent displays. I eagerly await the Southwest Monsoon each July and August, so that I can watch these critters ply their trade in Colorado.

Fortunately, this summer--which started brutally dry in most of southern Colorado in June and early July--has seen a much stronger than normal Southwest Monsoon. The rain from these storms will greatly benefit range and forest alike. This annual phenomenon, which is only common in the Rockies in its southern reaches, is one of the sadly diminishing number of reasons that I stay in Colorado.

If there is a downside to an active Southwest Monsoon--outside of the obvious chances for flash flooding, mudslides, etc.--it is that it may give people--especially outsiders and newcomers--the misguided impression that Colorado is some lush, green, well-watered paradise. That Colorado is not, and soon enough the aridity will return. Moreover, while the summer rains do much to help range and forest conditions, they do relatively little to provide the runoff needed for Colorado's rivers and streams. That heavy lifting is left to the winter snowpack--and there is no statistical connection between an active Southwest Monsoon in summer and heavy winter precipitation. This winter could be dry or wet.

For now, though, I will just enjoy nature's show--it is far more interesting than anything we humans can conjure up for entertainment.
You have just made me sooo homesick for southwestern Colorado.
I loved every word you have written about those grandious Rocky Mountain summer storms.
The San Juan and La Plata mountains were so beautiful this time of year and will just keep getting better this fall. Enjoy!
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Old 08-05-2010, 02:37 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
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jazzlover wrote:
For now, though, I will just enjoy nature's show--it is far more interesting than anything we humans can conjure up for entertainment.
Ain't that the truth! The creative geniuses in hollywood and bollywood can't touch it. I love this free entertainment from Mamma Gaia! And you dont even have to get into your car....just look up at the sky from the comfort of your own back yard.
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Old 08-05-2010, 04:39 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xeric View Post
I've heard some meteorologists say that the Denver area actually does have a pre-monsoon dry period but statistically its only 2 weeks from late June to early July. My own view is that a two week period is too short to identify as an annual "period". We can get substantial cold fronts all summer here (with lots of rain while the front passes through) and the monsoon can be early, thereby totally eliminating this dry period. I'd personally prefer a weather pattern similar to the southwest where the monsoon is much better defined (as is the dry pre-monsoon period). Here it can all blend together into a relatively wet spring-summer season. Plus daily highs that occasionally don't climb much above 70 degrees in mid-summer are irritating (those days remind me of my "summers" in Seattle).
The area that gets the most reliable rain in both late spring (May-June) and summer (July-August) in the Rockies is usually the relatively small area in and just east of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico. This area has high enough mountains to intercept moisture and provide the orographic lift to initiate storms; and the mountains are far enough east to intercept Gulf moisture in the spring and far enough south and west to intercept moisture from the Southwest Monsoon in July and August. The area may be roughly defined as the area of the Sangre de Cristos eastern side from about Raton Pass south to Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. One locale in that area that has had a cooperative weather station--Gascon, New Mexico--has one of the highest summer total preciptation averages in the Rockies at 10.5 inches. That area of New Mexico is also one of the most thunderstorm and lightning-prone locales outside of Florida in the US--no surprise. One of the wildest lightining storms that I've ever witnessed happened one late evening when I was overnighting in Las Vegas, New Mexico--probably only secondary to some "pre-tornadic" violent nighttime thunderstorms I witnessed in eastern Kansas.

The only other area near to the Rockies where I have seen pretty reliable mountain precipitation for the entire summer (even wetter in summer than most Colorado locales)--with all of the neat thunderstorms associated with it--is the Black Hills of western South Dakota. There the lower elevations generally exhibit the Great Plains characteristic of a wet June followed by a pretty dry August, but the Black Hills themselves generally still get a fair amount of rain in August. The Black Hills area sports one of my favorite all-around climates.
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